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1 John 2:13 (NKJV)
13 I write to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
What is it that separates the men from the boys? This was the question we began to answer last week. What are the lessons that the men in the congregation have to teach us as the people of God?
Last week I remarked on the stability that men provide for family, for church, and for society at large. Men are to be the source of ballast so that come what may – come trials, come hardship, come joy, come sorrow – men provide a clear sense of direction, identity, being.
Today I would like to expand upon this by noting the title that John uses to identify men – “fathers.” The men in the congregation are the “fathers” of the Church. And note that this is not a new designation for the men among God’s people. After all, throughout the Old Testament God was in the business of fulfilling the promises He made to whom? To the “fathers” – to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And it is on the basis of the covenants that God made with “the fathers” – the covenants with Abraham, with our fathers under Moses, and with David – that our Lord Jesus Christ took on human flesh for us. And so notice that throughout the many genealogical registers in Scripture – both Old Testament and New – the lists include successive generations of “fathers” who paved the way for the coming of Christ. While including special women here and there, the individuals that provide the sense of stability and continuity with the past are the men.
In other words, as important and indispensible as mothers are, it is through fathers that the history of Israel passed; it was to the fathers that God was faithful; and it is men whom God now calls “fathers” in the Church – fathers whom we are to respect and honor as the source of stability and strength for the Church.
So men have you reckoned with your high calling? Whether or not you are an earthly father, you are a father in Israel. God has called you to be a source of stability and strength in Israel and by means of you is going to pass the faith on to future generations who will look back and number you among “their fathers.” And so, as any good father, our obligation is to lead the way in devotion to the Lord and to His bride, the Church. We should be enthusiastic for worship, zealous for singing the psalms, eager to hear the Word of God, hungry to come to the Supper each week. But if your experience growing up was like mine then it was just the opposite. The women were the spiritual ones; the men abdicated. This ought not to be. We have an obligation to exemplify before the congregation what truly matters, what is worthy of all acceptance. We are to be examples to the flock, to so exemplify the love of Christ for His bride, the Church, that all God’s people be zealous for Her glory and growth to the praise of Christ Himself.
Others – including children, young men, young women, older women – have you shown the fathers in the faith due honor and respect? Our God calls us to “honor our father and our mother” and this includes respecting the men in the congregation generally by expecting of them all that God does. Remind them of God’s calling on them and be encouraged by them to pass the faith on to future generations.
Reminded that we have often despised our fathers in the faith, that we have considered their wisdom passé, that we have rejected their counsel in favor of our own, that we have scorned the gift God has given us in men, let us kneel and confess our sins to the Lord.
1 John 2:12-14 (NKJV)
12 I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. 13 I write to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, Because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, Because you have known the Father. 14 I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one.
What is it that separates the men from the boys? This is the question my Omnibus IV students recently had to consider. And their consideration of that question prompted me to return to my series of exhortations on the lessons which we learn from the different groups of people in the church – infants, children, young men, young women, and now men – not young men, not older men, but just plain men – so what is it that separates the men from the boys?
We realize at the outset, of course, that in some senses this is no longer a question of simple age. Many boys become men when in their teens. And many “grown-up” men continue to be boys when they should have left boyhood behind long ago. Manhood is more a matter of character than it is a biological state. So the words we speak will help us identify what it means to be a man and the lessons men can teach the body of Christ.
Among the answers that the students gave there were a few that repeatedly appeared. The first was stability. Men are stable. Having left behind the rashness of youth; frequently having assumed the responsibility for a family; men are called upon to be a rock of steadiness in a stormy sea.
Steadiness is the subject of John’s commendation in our text today. Note that John writes to three distinct groups in the congregation – little children, young men, and fathers. He gives two exhortations to each of these groups. While his exhortations to little children and to young men vary each time, his exhortations to the fathers are identical both times. “I write to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.” The consistency of the exhortation reveals that John too saw the men in the congregation as the source of stability and strength for the congregation.
What is it that has troubled Christendom in the West for over a hundred years? Is it not the absence of men? And so, lacking a clear sense of spiritual stability and identity, each new generation has pined for some new fad, some new experience, some new source of strength. This same thing has been happening in our families. While mom typically provides the warmth and color for the home, dad provides a clear sense of stability and identity. Dad identifies, “This is who we are. This is what it means to be a member of this family.” But just as men have been absent from church, dads have been AWOL from the family.
So what is it that enables a man to be stable? Here we must note what John writes. “I write to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.” The source of a man’s stability is not to lie in anything in himself; it is not to lie in his “macho-ness”; it is not to lie in his personal strength – for all these things can change in a moment. Rather, the source of a man’s stability lies in God Himself – the One who is truly stable, who does not change, shift, or move – and it is for this reason that men are privileged to share the name father with the First Person of the Godhead.
So, brothers and sisters, are we learning from the men in our midst the importance of entrusting ourselves whole and entire to the loving arms of our Heavenly Father who is our Rock, our Fortress, the One who grants stability to our lives in the most trying times? Have we learned from them to have a clear sense of center, a clear sense of identity that is rooted in Christ Himself and that does not change when trials come. I am a Christian. I am a servant of Jesus. This will never change. I fear that we have neglected to learn this lesson. How often we are unstable, unsure, and driven about by the wind and the waves. So let us kneel and let us confess our sin to the Lord.